Law Enforcement

  • DronesDHS warns local law enforcement to watch for drones used by terrorists, criminals

    DHS has circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. The bulletin went out Friday and warned state and municipal law enforcement agencies that terrorist and criminals may begin to use drones to advance their goals. “Emerging adversary use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] present detection and disruption challenges,” the intelligence bulletin warns.

  • Law enforcementSize of a community’s police force predictor of police misconduct

    The size of a community’s police force is a greater predictor for police misconduct than its ethnic diversity, according to researchers. In a study of nearly 500 city police departments across the United States, researchers found police departments with a large number of full-time employees are more likely to experience reported incidents of police misconduct, including excessive force, sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, and driving under the influence. This contradicts previous claims by other studies that a large police organization can potentially reduce misconduct.

  • Mass shootingMass killings, school shootings are contagious

    On average, mass killings involving firearms occur approximately every two weeks in the United States, and school shootings occur on average monthly. Mass killings — events with four or more deaths — and school shootings create a period of contagion that lasts an average of thirteen days. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of such tragedies appear to arise from contagion. “The hallmark of contagion is observing patterns of many events that are bunched in time, rather than occurring randomly in time,” says a researcher.

  • Private securityIowa mall shooting draws attention to lack of private security preparedness

    A fatal 12 June shooting by Alexander Kozak, an off-duty security guard at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, Iowa has highlighted the lack of screening regulations in private security firms. In Iowa, for example, despite licensing by Iowa Code Section 80A, many private security guards working at state malls, schools, and corporations have no training requirements and dodgy background check rules.

  • Terrorism & crimeMapping organized crime, terrorism hotspots in Eurasia

    More than a quarter of all the drugs produced in opium-rich Afghanistan pass through Eurasia. Drug trafficking in the region has been linked to the strength of such terrorists groups as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, and al-Qaeda. The illicit sale of weapons is common in the area, and locals are drawn into human trafficking rings either for forced labor or sexual exploitation. As organized crime plays an increasing role in funding terrorism, researchers aim to pinpoint hotspots in Eurasia where drug trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism coincide. The research team, selected to receive a $953,500 Minerva grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Minerva Research Initiative, will examine the connections between terrorism and organized crime in Central Asia, South Caucasus, and Russia.

  • ForensicsIowa State to be home to a new, $20 million national center for forensic science

    NIST has awarded a five-year, up to $20 million grant to establish a Forensic Science Center of Excellence to be based at Iowa State University. The new center will be the third NIST Center of Excellence and the only one focused on forensic sciences. Its primary goal will be to build a statistically sound and scientifically solid foundation under two branches of forensics, pattern evidence (including fingerprints and bullet marks) and digital evidence (including data from cell phones and computers).

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  • EncryptionTech companies urge rejection of push by FBI, DOJ for electronic devices “backdoors”

    In a 19 May letter to President Barack Obama, a group of Silicon Valley tech companies, cyber-security experts, and privacy advocacy groups urged the president to reject the implementation of “backdoors” in smartphone and computer encryption. The letter offered evidence of the  strong objection of the tech industry to demands from the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to allow secret backdoor passages into consumer electronics, which would make it possible for law enforcement to read encrypted private communications and data.

  • SurveillanceHouse-approved NSA reform bill fails in Senate

    Earlier this morning (Saturday), for the second time in less than a year, the Senate rejected a bill to end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of American phone metadata records. The House-approved USA Freedom Act failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to bring the bill to a vote on the floor (the vote was 57-42 in favor – three votes short). The bill’s opponents used different procedural maneuvering, lasting until the early morning hours Saturday, to block the bill itself from coming to a vote. The failure to pass the House bill – or any bill dealing with bulk collection – means that Senate, when it reconvenes on 31 May, will have only a few hours to decide the fate of Section 215 of the Patriot Act – the section which governs data collection and which has given the NSA and FBI broad domestic surveillance powers – before it expires on midnight that day. Senate GOP caucus is deeply divided on the issue, but House Republicans and Democrats exhibit a rare accord.

  • Law enforcementObama halts transfers of military equipment to local police departments

    Since Congress launched the 1033 Program in 1997 to make military equipment that the Pentagon no longer wants available to state and local police. About $4.3 billion worth of equipment has been distributed. Between FY2009 and FY 2014, five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs which provided funds and resources aiming to provide military equipment and tactical resources to state and local law enforcement agencies. The White House announced yesterday that it will ban federal transfers of armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and some types of camouflage uniforms to local police departments.

  • BioterrorismFormer agent sues FBI for retaliating against him for criticizing anthrax letters investigation

    Richard L. Lambert, a former senior FBI agent who, for four years, ran the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the FBI, accusing the agency of trying “to railroad the prosecution of [Bruce E.] Ivins” – the main suspect in the attacks — and, after Ivins’s 2008 suicide, of creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that Ivins was guilty. Lambert’s lawsuit also charges that the FBI and the Justice Department forced the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to dismiss him from his job as senior counterintelligence officer there in retaliation for his critique of the FBI’s conclusions in the anthrax case.

  • ImmigrationDHS implements new deportation scheme to replace Secure Communities

    After months of working to improve Secure Communities, the Obama administration recently announced the Priority Enforcement Program, under which jails will be asked to notify ICE agents when a deportable immigrant will be released — so agents can be waiting — instead of holding him or her in jail until ICE agents arrive. This new approach is a response to criticism of Secure Communities from local law enforcement units that said the program strained local budgets as jails became overbooked with nonviolent criminals.

  • CounterfeitInvisible inks to help foil counterfeiters

    Counterfeiting is very big business worldwide, with $650 billion per year lost globally, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. Scientists have invented sophisticated fluorescent inks that one day could be used as multicolored barcodes for consumers to authenticate products that are often counterfeited. Snap a photo with your smartphone, and it will tell you if the item is real and worth your money.

  • SurveillanceThe FBI violated its own rules in surveillance of anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists

    More than eighty pages of internal FBI documents dated from November 2012 to June 2014, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that the FBI breached its own investigation rules when it spied on protesters opposing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Agents in the FBI’s Houston field office failed to get approval before they cultivated informants and opened files on pipeline protesters — a violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming excessively involved in sensitive political issues.

  • Mexico violenceU.S. funding has supported Mexican government bodies accused of murders, crimes, abuses

    Over the past year, Mexican authorities have been implicated in cases involving the deaths of hundreds of civilians whose bodies were later found in mass graves. Most of these authorities work for local law enforcement and federal security agencies, which might have received funding from U.S. government programs created to combat Mexico’s illegal drug trade. In 2013, 98.3 percent of crimes in Mexico went unpunished, according to Mexican government statistics. Of the hundreds of mass graves discovered in Mexico in recent years, federal prosecutors have reported opening just fifteen investigations between 2011 and April 2015.

  • ImmigrationDHS deportations undermine efforts to get immigrants to provide leads on radical suspects

    DHS counterterrorism teams rely on cooperation from immigrant communities to obtain leads on radical individuals and pending terrorism plots, but many of these communities are becoming more wary of federal law enforcement as the number of deportations increase. “It’s ironic that you’ve got them coming in and trying to get information from our communities even as they’re detaining and deporting us at an alarming rate,” says one immigration activist. “That trust is just not going to be there. You can’t have it both ways.”